Ontario and Alberta agree to fight climate change in their own ways

TORONTO — Ontario and Alberta have different approaches on climate change, but agree reducing greenhouse gases is a key issue linked directly to the economy, Premiers Kathleen Wynne and Rachel Notley said after meeting in Toronto Thursday.

“We talked about our shared commitment to addressing issues around environmental protection and climate change,” said Notley.

Alberta has a climate change review panel doing consultations with all sectors of the economy, including the energy industry, and is looking at reducing the amount of coal it burns to generate electricity, she added.

“It’s also looking at what we do with respect to energy efficiency and with respect to renewable energy,” said Notley. “Those are two areas under the previous government that were not developed at all from the perspective of government policy.”

Alberta will develop a policy that balances environmental stewardship with ensuring “sustainable and economically healthy growth” of the province’s energy sector, added Notley.

“The sustainable development of the energy industry is very important for Alberta’s economy and very important for Canada’s economy,” she said.

Ontario already closed all its coal-fired electrical generating stations and has decided to implement a cap-and-trade system to further reduce greenhouse gases, while Alberta already has carbon pricing.

“What’s important from our perspective is that we’re all taking action, and it’s consistent with the Canadian energy strategy that we are putting our own sub-national strategies in place,” said Wynne. “A real reduction of emissions is our goal.”

Notley said she supports NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s proposed national carbon trading system to combat greenhouse gas emissions because it would let provinces opt out if their efforts are as good as or better than his plan.

“The key thing about his plan that is appealing to Albertans is the fact that it respects the ability of individual provinces to make their own plans that reflect the economic and industrial profiles of each province,” said the NDP premier. “That’s why I think we can work within it.”

There are 1,100 Ontario companies that are dependent on Alberta’s oilsands for their business, said Wynne, so the province has a vested interest in the sector.

Ontario and Quebec have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the Energy East pipeline project, and Notley admitted Alberta could do a better job of explaining the need for the pipeline to diversify its energy markets.

“I do feel there’s better discussions to be had around this issue,” she said. “I think we can change the framework and change the way the conversation goes forward and we can have a discussion ultimately on that pipeline on the basis of its economic merits and the environmental consequences of the pipeline itself.”

TransCanada Corp. wants to build a $12-billion pipeline to carry Alberta crude to ports in eastern Canada, which involves converting an existing natural gas pipe for two-thirds of the way and building new pipe through Quebec and New Brunswick.

“A project like the pipeline shouldn’t be about pitting one province against another,” said Wynne. “It’s about how do we have this conversation that recognizes the economic merits and the economic needs of all provinces.”

The premiers also expressed support for a new free trade deal at the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in Atlanta, but Wynne complained about a lack of information from the federal government and said she hoped Ontario’s auto sector and agricultural supply management systems were protected in the negotiations.

Notley’s visit to the Ontario legislature was part of a business trip which also took her to Montreal and New York City.

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Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press

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